There’s a lot of expectation on this album. Just in case you hadn’t noticed.
At the time of writing Wet Leg may not have bothered the singles chart in the UK, but this record is well on target to top the album charts. In fact, such is the ascendancy of the duo, already there are those coming out of the woodwork to say that they prefer such and such an act to Wet Leg. Indie music, it must be remembered, has such a snobbery attached that possibly only Northern Soul can possibly beat it. They are signed to Domino, the long-established indie label who have managed over the decades to maintain a level of indie-cred whilst also making huge stars out of the likes of Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys. It is a dead-cert the same is about to happen here. At the time of writing, it’s outselling its nearest rival 4:1.
The Isle Of Wight hasn’t produced a huge number of musical acts – probably the best known to arrive from the island county is Level 42. Wet Leg – singers and guitarists Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – emerged last year with one of the best tracks of 2021 in ‘Chaise Longue.’ A year in the public realm has not diminished it: it is likely to remain a staple of parties, clubs and car singalongs for years to come, and fans reportedly include both Dave Grohl and Elton John. Full of utterly quotable lyrics and referencing the film Mean Girls, it’s on a parallel with older indie evergreens like The Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’ and Courtney Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian At Best.’ Altogether now: “Mummy, Daddy, look at me: I went to school and I got a degree.”
‘Chaise Longue’ is the second track on the album. Whilst one of the standout tracks, there’s certainly plenty of other songs to get excited about here, and it’s thankfully not a whole cluster of songs attempting to recreate this one with diminishing returns. Lightning does strike twice or more, in fact. There are moments that are far more dreamy, like ‘Convincing’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out’, which show a varying of the sonic palette within. There’s a skill, too, to what they can pull off. The manic stop-start ‘Oh No’ with its throwaway “You’re so woke/diet coke” line could bring down a lesser act, yet they bring it to a point where it evokes acts like Le Tigre and Deerhoof.
I also wonder what experiences or dreams (nightmares?!) could produce a line like those on another single ‘Wet Dream’: “You climb onto the bonnet and you’re licking the windscreen / I’ve never seen anything so obscene.” In case you have yet to twig, this is neither dour post-punk or Dad rock by numbers, which can certainly dominate what comes to pass for indie these days.
While many acts are seemingly determined to make out that they are in some kind of extended adolescence, one of the things that’s intriguing about this record is how focused this is on life in your mid-twenties. Whilst the phrase quarter-life crisis might be over the top here, there is the sense that life may not be turning out just how it might be expected. Rarely are people expected to be married with children by this point now, but it’s not uncommon to feel adrift. “Now I’m almost 28 / Still getting off my stupid face / Fucking Nightmare’ they sing on ‘I Don’t Wanna Go Out’”.
But this is no ‘woe is me’ album. Rather: it’s actually often really funny, deadpan and with wry observations; yet more reasons to love this album. They aren’t taking themselves too seriously…if only more acts would take this approach. It’s littered with allusions to popular culture, of which the aforementioned Mean Girls is but one. (It certainly makes a change from over-analysing Beatles records for yet more evidence for the ‘Paul McCartney is dead’ theory.) There are others that have been suggested – but hopefully after listening to this album readers will enjoy going down their own particular rabbit warrens.
A few months ago on this site, I noted of another good debut from another hotly tipped act, Yard Act, that the second album would have to up the ante or be wildly different. The same applies here, but as an album it is a whole heap of fun. Don’t let fear of hype distract you from enjoying this. The album lives up to what has been said and written about it, and it is likely that it will be ever-present on the end of year lists. It works on so many levels, but most crucially, there’s great pop songs a-plenty which grow on the repeated playing that the album stands up to. Take it from someone who already has…
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.